HAROLD BELL: STILL RUNNING AGAINST THE WIND!
by Maggie Linton
TV-7 On Your Side Anchor Paul Berry and I co-host a Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Show.
TV-9 Anchor Maureen Bunyan and I co-host toys for tots with Santa’s Helpers TV-5 Anchor Lark McCarthy and WKYS Radio personality, Donnie Simpson.
There will be several milestones for Harold K. Bell to mark in 2018. First, April 4, 2018 marks 50 years ago our Prince of Peace the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennesee. He found himself on the corner of the 9th & U Street corridor in the middle of the worst riot in DC history. May 21st marked his 80th birthday, November 28th will mark 50 years of marriage to his wife Hattie,and December 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of hosting their first ever Christmas toy party for needy elementary school children.
There is one more important milestone we missed, in 1967 the legendary radio and television icon Petey Greene gave him five minutes to talk sports on Sundays. The show was “Petey Greene’s Washington” heard on W-O-L radio.
In 1970 Harold Bell embarked on his talk show career as an independent sports talk show host-a relatively new medium for black broadcasters. thanks to the introduction by his mentor and friend Petey Greene. Bell’s first five-minutes of radio stardom was at the helm of the two-time Emmy Award winner and sports talk has never been the same.
In 1970 he found the original “Inside Sports” heard on W-O-O-K radio in Washington, DC. The rest is sports talk radio history. Long before the late George Michael’s Sports Machine, Inside Sports Magazine, ESPN the Magazine, Outside the Lines and HBO’s Real Sports (Byrant Gumble) there was Harold Bell and “The Original Inside Sports.”
He grew up in a NE DC housing project called “Kenilworth Parkside.” He is a 4th generation Washingtonian. His great-grandfather Alfred Johnson Tyler laid the first brick to build historic Mount Airy Baptist Church located at North Capitol & L Streets NW in 1893. The Tyler House located at North Capitol & New York Ave, NW is an apartment complex for low income residents named after his great-uncle the Rev. Earl Tyler. He came by community service “The Old Fashion Way” he followed in the footsteps of his Grandmother and Great-Uncle after church each Sunday.
Bell received his education in the DC Public School system where he was an All-Star athlete at Spingarn High School. His Coach Dave Brown was his mentor and savior. Coach Brown talked the late legendary coach Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines into giving him an athletic scholarship to Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina—he said, “It saved his life.”
He has been called a living legend around Washington, DC for his work with youth gangs and at-risk children. His first job was as a “Neighborhood Worker” for the United Planning Organization and later as a Roving Leader for the DC Department of Recreation and Parks (Youth Gang Task Force). Fifty-plus years later his legend continues to grow with his non-profit organization, Kids In Trouble. His radio sports talk show format “The Original Inside Sports” is a tag given to him by his wife Hattie over dinner one evening. The tag is now copied by ESPN, HBO and every radio, television and print media outlet in the world.
His pioneering contributions in sports talk radio and television in Washington DC, impressed Washington Star radio and television critic William Taaffe so much that he wrote, “Inside Sports Blazes a Trail. The show rules the roost because of a crusading kind of honesty and the show actually says something. You never have to splash water on your face to stay awake. Bell has always delved into the athlete’s personality with the eye of a reporter, and never the ‘Fluff’ of a talk-show Host.”
Legendary Washington Times sports columnist the late Dick Heller later wrote “Harold Bell is the Godfather of sports talk, the good kind.” He has interviewed hundreds of leading sports figures from “A to Z.” The list includes his dear friend the late Muhammad Ali and Redskin Mascot, Chief Zee.
His credo for the game called life was given to him by his grandmother and mother, “A lie will change a thousand times but the truth never changes and every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy” says a lot about him and his talk show format. There would be less racism and hate in the world if everyone followed his talk show format, dialogue on racism is always open for discussion.
He was the first sports talk show host to play message music on air as it related to his community. There were popular tunes like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Every Body, and the classic by his homeboy and childhood friend, Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.” He established a no holds barred Media Roundtable with local and national media, unheard of during the 70’s. The Roundtable included, locals like Dick Heller, George Solomon and national sports writers Bill Rhoden of the NY Times and Larry Fitzgerald, Sr. a writer for the Minnesota Spokesman. In 1980 Bell was the first sports media personality honored as ‘Washingtonian of the Year’ by Washingtonian Magazine along with Washington Redskin QB Joe Theisman for their reach back efforts to enhance children in the DC community. Poems have been written about his exploits with youth gangs and at-risk children. The late poet Murray Brooks penned a poem titled, “For Whom the Bells Toll and family friend Earl Tilmon wrote, A Grieving Mother’s Tears.”
The sports media personalities who have benefited from Kids In Trouble, Inc. and Inside Sports read like a Who’s Who. They include, James Brown (NFL CBS), John Thompson (ESPN), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TBS), Kevin Blackistone (ESPN), Sugar Ray Leonard (ESPN), Adrian Branch (ESPN), Oden Polyniece (NBA), Cathy Hughes (Urban Radio & TV One), Glen Harris (TV 8 Sports), Butch McAdams (Urban Radio One sports), Adrian Dantley (Comcast Sports), Omar Tyree (Author Fly Girls, etc), Jamie Foster Brown (Sister2Sister Magazine) Jair Lynch, Grant Hill, and Comedian Chris Thomas (BET). Each one of them came through Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports long before their 15 minutes of fame. He has more media personalities working in main stream media than anyone in the history of black broadcasting.
He was the first media personality to encourage pro athletes, judges, politicians, entertainers and newsroom media personalities to get directly involved with the community. In 2018 every pro sports franchise has followed his lead.
When the NFL and NBA Hall of Fames had overlooked his friends pro football pioneer Willie Wood and NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd, he led a campaign with NBA legendary coach Red Auerbach and DC sports columnist Dick Heller to get them both inducted into their respective hall of fames. Willie was inducted in 1989 and Earl was inducted in 2003. According to one African maxim, “Until the lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” His passion to make sure that the Black Athlete receives his just deserts not only in Black History but also in American History is unmatched.
Main stream media has sent their designated “Hit Men” to try to discredit his efforts to make it an ‘Even Playing Field’ during the most segregated time in media—a pressroom at DEADLINE! The Hit Men include; Tony Kornheiser, Norman Chad,Dave McKenna, David Kindred, Mike Wise, and John Feinstein. If you notice each one had a connection to the Washington Post, they own the copyright to Inside Sports.
Earl Lloyd best described Bell in a interview heard on WTEM ESPN all sports talk radio in Washington, D. C., when he told John Thompson and co-host Doc Walker, “Harold Bell maybe controversial, but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.” Recently a scam artist tried to run a scam on the Earl Lloyd Estate with a documentary titled, “The First to Play” relating to Lloyd’s NBA pioneering efforts and his life story.
Scammed players, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Mike Finley and Carmelo Anthony.
Bell exposed the scam to NBA Commissioner Adam Silva, Coach Gregg Popovich and TNT NBA sideline reporter Dave Aldridge, but not before bad checks had bounced and money had passed through the hands of several NBA players and the scam artist Arka Sengupta. The NBA has since made the documentary disappear. When NFL great Jim Brown known as “The NFL Godfather of Domestic Abuse” found himself on the wrong side of the law and was sentence to six months in jail for domestic abuse in 2000, he had his wife Monique call Harold Bell. Bell led a media campaign to get his wishy-washy friend an early release. Many other high profile incarcerated personalities have also benefited from his intervention on their behalf.
Sugar Ray Leonard was in a self imposed lock-up. He was under house arrest by local media. He came home from the 1976 Olympic Games with his Gold Medal looking for a ticker-tape parade but instead encountered a hostile media. He made headlines for having a baby out of wedlock with girlfriend Quanita.
Love Birds: Sugar Ray Leonard before the multi-titles and 100 million dollars. His agent Mike Trainor scammed millions from him before I pulled his coattail.
Sugar Baby lost his self-esteem and refused to come out of his house in Palmer Park. With nowhere to turn trainer Janks Morton and Melvin Weasel Jackson came to Anacostia Park one evening while I was playing tennis and asked me for my help. The next morning I was knocking on Ray’s door, he opened with tears in his eyes and the rest is boxing history. He went from not having two pennies to rub together to becoming the first pro boxer to earn 100 million dollars in the ring.
TV 7 Anchor Fred Thomas (class act) and NBA Hall of Fame player Adrian Dantley. He is clueless, I exposed his agent David Falk for scamming him out 2 million dollars+.
His historic up close and personal one on one interview with Ali in 1975 on NBC WRC-TV 4 is a masterpiece. The interview reveals every side of Ali, his funny side and serious side. It is an interview of how we all would like to remember Ali before Parkinson’s disease robbed him of his ability to speak and move. Emmy Award winning actor Robert Hooks followed up the Ali interview with an interview with Roy Foreman, the brother of big George Foreman. Roy explained the state of mind of his brother before the 1974 big showdown in Zaire with Ali—it is priceless. Harold Bell was once asked by a friend, “If you had to describe your life in a song what would it be?” His response was, ‘Running Against the Wind’ by Bob Seger. Harold Bell is a man for all seasons—his race against the wind is a photo finish.
The late DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore with Santa’s Helpers, LB Harold McLinton (Santa), LB Dave Robinson and WR Roy Jefferson host a KIT toy party.
Maggie Linton–is a radio and television talk show pioneer. Her career spans over four decades on radio, television and movies. She is a former sports anchor and feature reporter for XM Satellite Radio USA News Channel.